HHP faculty Dr. Richard Simpson's research on the effects of long periods of time in space on astronauts' immune systems was recently featured in the Houston Chronicle. Dr. Simpson's study is funded by NASA and is specifically looking at viruses that stay in your body for life, like herpes and the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis.
Dr. Richard Simpson (Photo courtesy- The Houston Chronicle)
Below is a excerpt from the Chronicle:
"Many of the crew members have had reactivation viruses, but we've known that. What we've been thinking is that there's a certain type of cell called the natural killer cell, which is very important for fighting cancers and for controlling viruses. What we've found in the astronauts is that the natural killer cells are going down. Their ability to kill virus cells and certain cancer cells is impaired when they're in space.
That's what we've found so far. After returning, it recovers back to baseline, but the rate of recovery varies from astronaut to astronaut"
Read the entire article on the Houston Chronicle website
Learn more about Dr. Simpson's research